You’ve got wind! 你受风了!

The difference between bravery and stupidity is not so much seen in the action you take, but in what you allow yourself to realize before you act. It’s amazing what you will be “brave” enough to do if you simply don’t think about what you’re actually doing. It’s actually not hard at all to deliberately not think about what you’re doing because you know that if you do think about it you won’t do it.

That’s how I was able to tolerate a hot soak in a certain crowded 6 bathhouse the other weekend — a bathhouse that easily had the nastiest water in the history of nasty bathhouse water. And I’m no germaphobe — I’ve eaten cockroaches in Thailand and danced around fresh, green cow patties to wade through a bathing heard of east African longhorns for a swim down a chocolate-milk-coloured river in rural Uganda — but that bathhouse water was thick with floaties, like watery oatmeal. It’s a week later I’m still getting shivers just thinking about it, which, of course, is something I didn’t do at the time.

We nixed the original 12 bathhouse after discovering it was basically a brothel and moved to this cheaper one, but I’m thinking we have to scratch this one off the list as well. It’s too bad, cause the head 师父 who did my guasha (刮痧) and fire-cupping (拔火罐拔罐子) was really nice and fun to talk to.

Anyway, this post isn’t actually about how I’m still cringing at the memory of that dead-skin-soupwater even as I write this. It’s about a traditional Chinese health problem called “getting wind” (受风), and what your fire cup hickey dots () look like a couple days later if you’ve “got wind” really bad:

When the guys in the bathhouse saw how dark my marks were, they said, “Whoa, you’ve really got wind.” The darker the marks, the more “wind” you have in your body, and having wind in your body is bad. I wish I’d taken a photo that night when they were darker; this photo is from two days later after it’d started to fade.

The “wind” of Chinese medicine isn’t exactly the same as the wind you’re thinking of. You can “get wind” (受风) and “dispel wind” (祛风). (When people talk they mean 祛 but usually say “qù”, so it’s often written “去” because that matches their pronunciation, even though it’s technically not correct.) Fire-cupping (拔火罐拔罐子) is supposed to help dispel “wind”. Another very common ailment is having too much “fire” in your body (上火). You’re supposed to have some “fire”, but you have to keep it balanced and under control. You can get guasha (刮痧) to lower your body’s “fire” (祛火).

See our Chinese medicine category for other adventures down the mind-bending rabbit hole of traditional Chinese medicine.

6 thoughts on “You’ve got wind! 你受风了!”

  1. Is there any actual evidence that this fire cupping actually has therapeutic benefits? I’ve seen a number of people walking around with spots on their back and neck from the cupping treatment. Somehow, it just seems so primitive to me – like blood letting with leeches… though given it’s lasting popularity, there _must_ be something going on here?

    1. Don’t have a clue if there’s any strictly scientific evidence for fire-cupping or not. Technically speaking, TCM isn’t scientific in the first place, so trying explain it scientifically might not make a whole lot of sense.

      However, there are Western medical people who attempt that very thing. You can see what some doctors had to say here:

  2. Hello, 大江, your site is wonderful. It’s incredible of you to have a hot soak in such a nasty bathhouse, I suppose only native Tianjiners like me can tolerate this, haha!
    A lot of your photos call up my memory of home town. I guess you work as a writer, and your readers are western people interested in Chinese culture. In fact I’ve always searching for a 老外 like this, and I wonder if I can help him do this job better.
    In your case, those bathhouse guys can “exceed authority” to do some healthcare service, just like European barbers played lancet and leech in the middle age, but unfortunately, their workshop can hardly represent TCM. The dark mark on your skin is not a solid evidence of “getting wind”, unless you do remember you’ve caught a cold earlier. Blood stasis caused by other reasons (such as overwork and depression) may also result in dark mark after cupping. I’m not criticizing those guys, because everybody has the freedom of health preserving. Likewise, a lot of Americans, after catching cold, drink ginger Coke instead of taking pills, can this represent the western medicine? If not, is this a custom lacking scientific basis, or “superstition”? So in my opinion, it’s appropriate to classify those “folk therapies”, no matter cupping, Guasha, massage or ginger Coke, in the category of “folk customs about health” rather than “medicine”. To be serious, TCM has much better way of healing “wind” instead of stamping people’s back like ladybird, and TCM andriatry hardly resort to other animals’ penis. But the “formal” TCM resolution of those conditions is an academic topic and a bit dull for people who are not so interested in medicine. It’s my long-pursued aim to reveal the root of medicine in civilization, that’s the reason why I, as a humble postgraduate of BUCM, initiated a TCM web http://www.tcmlife.net recently.
    After all, thank you for your advocating of Tianjin, TCM and Chinese Culture! I guess you’re attempting to advance your career of culture communication, and it’s my honor to join this career. My MSN: w.s.pan@live.cn, see you in Tianjin!

  3. Longxiang,

    Hi! Your comment is helpful and interesting. If I understand you correctly, you’re saying there is a difference between traditional folk health ideas and practices, and formal, professional TCM ideas and practices, right? I assume this. It’s similar in North America; not everything that the average person does when they are sick is based in Western medicine and science (though they might assume it is). At the same time, though, there is often a some sort of connection between formal, professional medicine and folk beliefs, even if the folk ideas and methods don’t correctly understand or represent the formal medical understandings. This happens in any field of study, I think, not just medicine. However, I think the relationship between science and Western medicine is very different from the relationship between science and TCM.

    My attempt to understand the basics of formal TCM is here: Chinese Medicine: Getting a Clue. TCM is not easy for a Western person to understand! But I think we should try.

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